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An Arresting Triumph - Southend-on-Sea Police's TR4

The summer of 1962 and you are cruising down the A127 towards Southend-on-Sea in your new Sunbeam Alpine Series II.

The hood is down, the sun is shining, and you are wearing a particularly tasteful cravat.

In short, you have not a care in the world until you hear the unmistakable sound of a police car bell – only the vehicle seen in the rear view mirror is not an Austin Westminster but a Triumph TR4…

Tr4 police car

Fifty-seven years ago, the use of a sports car as a high-speed traffic vehicle was far from unusual in the UK, but the Triumph TR4 was both a recent model and a striking presence.

Some entered service with Manchester City while 4100 HJ was purchased by Southend-on-Sea Borough Police in May 1962 from Eastons, the Leigh-on-Sea Standard-Triumph dealers.

Superintendent Bill Burles assigned the TR4 the role of “Fast Pursuit Car”, and it is rumoured that the choice of Triumph was partially due to the feeling that ‘anything the London Met. can do with their Daimler “Darts” Essex can equal…’.

One retired officer. George Cook recalled that in the 1960s Southend was ‘the envy of most other UK police forces because the local council had made sufficient finances available they had excellent equipment’.

TR4 Police car

The Triumph cost £1,095 but, as Autocar noted in January 1962, it was ‘an invigorating car to drive’. Southend fitted the TR4 with the Winkworth “gong”, two-note air horns, police signs fore and aft with a “Stop” warning on the boot, a Pye wireless set and a windscreen mounted spot lamp.

There were also wing mirrors and a re-calibrated speedometer while the traffic division specified the optional Laycock-de-Normanville overdrive at £61 19s 7d and Dunlop RS5 road speed tyres for another £11 13s 4d.

To say the Triumph was well-used is an understatement; it was in service every day all week with two shifts per day varying between 0900hrs to 1700hrs, 1700hrs to 0100hrs or 1900hrs to 0300hrs.

Tr4 police car

As with the Met. Daimlers, the crews went on patrol with the roof down and the TR4 amassed 1,000 miles per week. In addition to catching errant motorists in Singer Gazelles and deterring all ton-up boys, 4100 HJ was also used for hospital runs; a vital task in an era before police helicopters.

Such was its profile that the TR4 featured on the cover of Advanced Driving Explained by Inspector W. H. Jobson – a bargain at 1/6d.

Southend-on-Sea Borough Police merged with the Essex force in 1969 and 4100 HJ was eventually acquired by Neil Revington of Revington TR in 2005.

He returned it to a condition that would have met with the approval of the most exacting of Chief Constables.

The Triumph is being sold at the H&H Classics auction at the Pavilion Gardens in Buxton on the 24th of July – a chance to own the only surviving police TR4. ‘Are you aware at what speed you were travelling sir…?’

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